Rummanah Aasi

Description: Everything is going right for Lucy Hansson, until her mom’s cancer reappears. Just like that, Lucy breaks with all the constants in her life: her do-good boyfriend, her steady faith, even her longtime summer church camp job. Instead, Lucy lands at a camp for kids who have been through tough times. As a counselor, Lucy is in over her head and longs to be with her parents across the lake. But that’s before she gets to know her coworkers, who are as loving and unafraid as she so desperately wants to be. It’s not just new friends that Lucy discovers at camp—more than one old secret is revealed along the way. In fact, maybe there’s much more to her family and her faith than Lucy ever realized.

Review: Lord takes a daring step in writing about religion and cancer, topics that is sensitive for many readers, but she mostly succeeds in her latest book The Names They Gave Us. For Lucy, daughter of a pastor, religion has been a cornerstone of her identity and something that she has unquestionably followed. Lucy's faith  and her world are shaken when she learns that her mother’s cancer has reoccurred. She reacts with anger that affects her relationship with her parents who try to protect her from the news, her boyfriend who keeps reassuring her that everything will be fine, and above all God who Lucy feels has betrayed her. Throughout the book we see Lucy struggle with her faith in the face of a tragedy and she slowly realizes that she isn't the one who has been on this crossroad.
  I was afraid that I would have a hard time connecting with Lucy but I didn't. She is your quintessential star teen: does extremely well in school, she competes on the swim team, has a perfectly mannered boyfriend, and gets along well with her parents, especially her mom who she actually likes. At first she does come across as judgmental and sheltered as she spends her summer at Daybreak, a camp for kids dealing with drama, at the request of her mother. At Daybreak, Lucy expands her world and her outlook at life. I really enjoyed watching Lucy grow and challenge herself as she meets a diverse cast of characters, including a trans girl and people of color. Lucy's problems and those of the Daybreak campers are dealt with sensitively and honestly without being heavy handed or preachy. Lucy begins to realize that the world isn't so simple in black and white, but there are lots of greys in between too. Along with Lucy's character development, she learns how to make friends, be vulnerable and open up with her feelings, and even allow romance to bloom. Throughout the story there are sprinkles of clues regarding Lucy's mother's mysterious past that come to a climax at the end of the story. While some of the connections are bit over-the-top and a bit melodramatic, it does emphasis how complex life is. All of the characters including the secondary characters are well written and though the ending is open and somber, we know that Lucy, with the help of her support group that she created, will be okay. The Names They Gave Us is a sweet story that occasionally dips into melodrama, but does tug at the heartstrings. Lord is quickly becoming one of my favorite realistic fiction writers and I continue to look forward to what she writes next.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and scenes of underage drinking. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally (Hundred Oaks #2), Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr, The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
5 Responses
  1. This one is getting good reviews so I tried it but set it aside. I just couldn't deal with the whole storyline with the mom and cancer brought back many memories for me that I didnt' want to deal with. I was also a bit put off by the religious tones, it just got to be too much. I skimmed a bit and then read the final chapter, and I have to say, the open ending really bothered me too. I am wondering if I made the wrong choice after reading your review.....

  2. Kindlemom Says:

    Emery Lord really is a good go to author for this genre, especially over summer for some reason. At least, I always seem to read this genre more in the summer time than any other. So glad this was such a good read for you!

  3. @Heidi: I think this one will hit a little too close to home for you. I also was initially annoyed with her judgmental attitude but she does grow up a lot. I think she was just sheltered for most of it. Give it some time and maybe come back to it when you're emotionally ready.

  4. I enjoyed Lord's previous book so may give this one a try, thank you for the review!

  5. Aylee Says:

    I really loved The Start of Me and You by Lord. I really felt a connection to those characters. I'm a bit iffy on the religion aspect in this one though... I guess it depends on how it is handled. I'd certainly be willing to give this one a shot though because I have a feeling Lord can handle it!

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